One of the many beautiful characteristics that defines the Boston Jewish community is our commitment to be in partnership and solidarity with other Jewish communities around the world. Amidst very difficult times for too many communities, it bears repeating that a fundamental value that informs that commitment is the notion that, when it comes to the security and community safety needs of others, we don’t tell them what to do.
Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of opportunities to say this lately.
Last January, following the vicious attacks in Paris on Charlie Hedbo and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket, there was much talk about what the future entails for the Jewish community of France. We did not have any right to tell French Jews what to do. Who are we to tell a mother that she must remain somewhere if she worries every day that she is endangering the lives of her children just by sending them to the market? Who are we to tell someone who has a job, treasured community and deep roots that they should give up on their country and leave it?
In Ukraine we have been committed for nearly a quarter century to a partnership with the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk. Together we have reinvigorated Jewish life in that city in ways that have enriched our own as well. As part of their country is under Russian occupation, as they live near the frontlines of the area of terrorist operations, and as they struggle with a downturn in the national economy, it’s still not our place to tell them what to do. Who are we to tell our friends, who made the commitment to stay after the fall of the Soviet Union, that they should now leave after all that they have built? And who are we to tell them to stay if they believe that this crisis is ‘one too many’ to endure?
In Sweden, where astoundingly Jews were excluded from participating in a Kristallnacht commemoration this week, we share their outrage. In Argentina, when the community expresses vulnerability after the death of Alberto Nisman and continues to seek answers regarding the AMIA bombing after 20 years, we share their concern and join them in their demands.
In all these relationships we come to the table with a commitment of solidarity. Our message to all these Jewish communities around the world is simple: Atem Lo L’vad. You are not alone. We will offer our advice and insight. We will tell you how your decisions impact us – as Jews and as Americans. But we will respect your decisions and we will stand with you when you make them, in any way we can. For Jews in these countries our message is clear: If you stay, we will bring our advocacy and resources to bear on your behalf. If you leave, you will do so with our support as you build new lives in Israel or elsewhere.
Part of understanding and supporting our brothers and sisters is to engage directly with them, to listen to them, and to understand theirs hopes and aspirations, along with their concerns, for their communities. That’s why I’m excited and honored that I’ll be spending the next week – together with a group of Jewish leaders from across North America – in Berlin and Munich as a guest of the German Foreign Office to learn about Jewish life in Germany today. Because only by being in relationship with our family around the world can we truly understand and be in solidarity with them. I look forward to telling you about my experience when we return.
P.S. In related news, this coming week the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston will host a ‘Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations’ discussion “Anti-Semitism today in Europe – Is it safe for the Jews?” It’s a great lineup of thought leaders and JCRC is proud to co-sponsor. I encourage you to check it out.